Two human resource executives at PwC, Australia’s largest consulting firm, are accused of racist behavior at the firm’s trivia event last Thursday, in which one of them was said to have dressed as a “bat from Wuhan” while the other mocked Chinese accents. The company is now undergoing an internal investigation of the matter.
The incident: The racist behavior occurred in a skit performed during a virtual trivia event for the national infrastructure division hosted by PwC’s human resources team, according to The Australian Financial Review.
The team’s responsibilities entail “improving diversity at the firm and being part of the complaints process for staff who feel they have faced racial discrimination or harassment.”
A senior manager of diversity and inclusion at the firm was reportedly the one mocking Chinese accents.
One of the questions presented at the event had employees select a company logo out of several listed options that “best represented communism,” with the correct logo being that of Chinese tech giant Huawei.
Instagram account @TheAussieCorporate first revealed the incident on Instagram Stories on Friday.
The firm’s response: PwC chief executive Tom Seymour has launched an investigation of the incident — which he described as “racist and offensive” — with the help of legal advisors.
“A number of people shared their disappointment, frustration and anger about this event,” Seymour told The Australian Financial Review. “On behalf of all the team at PwC, I am extremely disappointed that this incident has occurred...I am hugely disappointed we fell short of the standard we hold ourselves to.”
He said that “whilst [the skit was] unintentional, they were thoughtless and harmful.”
@TheAussieCorporate noted in their follow-up Instagram Stories that many people were calling out Seymour’s use of the word “unintentional,” given the supposed “choreographed” nature of the skit.
On Monday, Seymour emailed the company’s partners about the incident and later apologized to those that were present during the trivia event at a town hall meeting. The incident was further addressed in company-wide communications sent out on Tuesday.
Those who attended the meeting expressed concerns that resolving the issue would be drawn out, but the firm is reportedly expected to come to a conclusion in one week.
The news follows reports of the firm’s efforts to improve racial diversity within its higher ranks, as only 17% of its partners are of “non-European cultural backgrounds” while 47% of employees are.
Enjoy this content? Read more from NextShark!